Game Center CX’s Budokan Challenge

Even though this event took place back in the beginning of November, everyone was kindly asked not to reveal the details of the show until it aired on New Year’s Day. As a fan of the show I tried to honor their request, which is why I have sat on this story for so long.

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To celebrate its 10th anniversary, GameCenter CX has been doing a plethora of things for its fans, and one of those was a live event at Japan’s famed Budokan Arena a few weeks ago, which I was able to attend. There were more than 7000 people in attendance by show’s end. While we were waiting for the show to begin, various video montages played on the big screen which showed off footage from the upcoming DVD boxset, 3DS game, and a sneak-peek of the GameCenter CX movie coming this February.

The show began as it always has for the past 10 years, with the 8-bit GCCX King making his away across the big screen, with his opening dialogue welcoming us to the Budokan. He then walked off screen as always, but instead of the show’s main title theme kicking in, we continued to hear his 8-bit footsteps. As the audience sat there confused, Tani (the show’s Sound Engineer) walked out onto stage dressed as the GCCX King, simply nodded his head at us and then walked off stage. The audience cheered at the unexpected surprise as the show’s opening played, which then turned into a thunderous roar as Arino suddenly appeared on the arena floor and slowly made his way through the crowd towards the stage.

When Arino finally took the stage and finished with the pleasantries, his Budokan challenge was announced: a 5 game revenge challenge. Arino would be re-challenging some of his most difficult and memorable games from the past 10 years, and he would only have a few hours to do so because, as the announcer (the omni-present voice of Prodcuer Kan) said, “The trains stop running, so please finish before 11 or all these people won’t be able to go home.” Arino nervously chuckled at this prospect while the audience encouraged him to do his best. The five games of Arino’s revenge challenge were then revealed: Super Mario Bros., Ghost and Goblins, Punch-Out!, Street Fighter 2, and a “Secret” game. If Arino managed to clear a challenge he and the audience would be treated to a special surprise.

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For the first of his five challenges Arino selected Punch-Out!, which he had previously played in 2009, but was unable to get past Soda Popinski. His Budokan revenge challenge would be to finally defeat Popinski. After some initial losses to Popinski, Arino was shocked to see himself back at the fight with Piston Honda. The announcer reminded him of Punch-Out!’s system of consecutive losses kicking you back a fight, and told him that he now had to defeat Honda before he could challenge Popinski again. Much to the audience’s surprise, Arino made quick work of Honda and was soon back to fighting Popinski. This back and forth continued on for a good twenty minutes, and as  time went on the crowd began counting the punches and KO timer to help cheer Arino along. Unfortunately, despite his gallant effort, Arino was unable to defeat Soda Popinski, and his first challenge of the night ended in failure.

For his second challenge, Arino chose Ghost and Goblins, which he had previously played in 2004 and managed to successfully clear. Despite him being able to clear the game, Arino struggled against the dreaded Red Arremer that appears in the first stage for almost three hours. His Budokan revenge challenge would be to defeat Red Arremer, using no more than three lives. Arino bemoaned the fact that he had so little lives to fight his dreaded rival. Arino was killed in his fist encounter with Red Arremer, but took the cheers of encouragement from the audience to heart as he managed to kill the feared enemy on his second life. Arino then waited patiently for his special surprise, which was AD Tsurouka singing the GameCenter CX song “Momoko’s Love Song.”

The third challenge of the night was the original Super Mario Bros.; Arino has previously played this game on a few occasions for various events, but this time he was getting revenge for this past June’s “Live 30th Anniversary Famicom Special.” His Budokan challenge would be to get past the Hammer Bro that guards Bowser in 8-4 and ultimately defeat Bowser. Arino was given 10 lives to complete this challenge. Life after life he came within mere pixels of clearing the challenge, and despite thunderous encouragement from the audience, he lost his last life. However, all was not lost as producer Kan announced that they had prepared an additional Famicom which had an “unknown” number of lives (thanks to the 99-lives exploit crown symbol), and Arino would also be beginning the challenge with having a fire flower as well. Arino struggled valiantly and came close many times, and after expending an additional 20-odd lives he finally managed to defeat Bowser, which was greeted by a deafening round of applause from the audience. For finally beating the original Super Mario Bros and completing the challenge, Arino was treated to AD Watanabe singing “Good-bye Game”

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Even though Arino selected to play Street Fighter 2 for his forth challenge of the evening, Producer Kan overrode his choice and instead announced that Arino would be playing the secret mystery title, Derby Stallion (for those of you that don’t know, Derby Stallion is an incredibly popular horse racing simulator here in Japan). Arino’s Budokan challenge would to be to place first in the Japan Derby Cup Race, something he was unable to do when he last played the game two years ago. Because this is a horse racing simulator, before any actual racing occurred Arino had to train his horse in order to get it into top racing form. In order to help guide his horse’s training, the creator of the Derby Stallion series was on-hand to offer some friendly advice. After training was complete, it was off to the races for Arino and his horse named “Budokan”. The gun sounded and the horses were off; Budokan was soon in the top three and jockeyed back and forth between first and second place. As the race reached its final turn Budokan was  overtaken by another horse, but suddenly, right at the end and just as it seemed all was lost, Budokan came from behind and won the race. With the Derby Stallion revenge challenge cleared, Arino was treated to a rendition of “Last Continue” by AD Nakayama.

For his last and final challenge of the evening, Arino would be given a chance for revenge against his Manager, Noda, who bested him in a Street Fighter 2 VS competition back in 2006. Arino would play as Dhalsim (as he always does in Street Fighter games) and Manager Noda would be playing as Blanka in order to re-create the 2006 match-up. Arino and Noda went blow for blow in Round 1, with Noda edging out the first win. In Round 2, Arino had a come from behind victory thanks to the aid of his favorite move, Yoga Fire. Unfortunately, in Round 3, Manager Noda took the gloves off and gave Arino’s Dhalsim a thrashing, for an easy victory. Once again, Arino had lost to his Manager, and had failed the Street Fighter 2 challenge.

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Even-though Arino had lost the final challenge of the evening, producer Kan declared the first-ever Budokan challenge to be a success as Arino was ahead 3-2 on his overall challenge wins. For winning the overall challenge, Arino was treated to one last surprise: a collection of ADs past and present to sing the Game Center CX song “Kacho Fighter.” At the song’s end Arino thanked everyone for coming to the event that evening and hoped that we would all come see his next live challenge which would be taking place next year at Tokyo’s Super Saitama Arena!

Words can not express the amount of fun that myself and the rest of the audience members had at this event. People were laughing, cheering, crying, and jumping for joy all throughout the evening. I have said it before and I will say it again: if you are a gamer and aren’t familiar with Game Center CX, I strongly encourage you to search for the show online and experience for yourself the joys of it.